Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mallard madness

After last week went to waste waiting in for stuff that didn't turn up, then some of it arrived in time to keep me occupied over the weekend, I managed to escape. The session was open ended, I had enough grub for three nights. Unfortunately I messed up the maggot buying and ran out after two days. As the tench weren't playing I was happy enough to pack up at two thirty today.

I wasn't surprised to find the Rat Pit low, although being between a foot and eighteen inches lower than normal was more missing water than I'd expected. To be honest I'm not sure if I shouldn't have fished a deeper swim. Then again, I've seen big tench feeding in water so shallow I could wade around it in wellies. I think the fish simply weren't there.

The warm spring had brought the weed growth on early. It wasn't unfishable by any means. I did have to take care on how I approached things though. Any amount of tightening to the rig that dragged it back would see it weeded. So I let the rigs sink on a tight line and clipped the bobbin straight on, then set the baitrunners.

The rigs were the usual in-line feeders on two rods, with short hooklinks and fake casters. A helicopter rig alternated a feeder and live maggots on the hook along with a single floating fake maggot during the day, and a 10mm Tutti pop-up with a plain lead and a bag of boilies during the hours of darkness. The first night produced three single bleeps to the boilie. Could have been bats though...

As the hawthorn flowers were all but gone and the elder starting to blossom the signs are that the tench might be ready to spawn. Whatever the case I think I've left it too late to fish the Rat Pit this year. Damn those Bank Holidays!

Although Tuesday evening had been sunny the night clouded over and the air stayed warm. The cloud brought showers on Wednesday, which cleared away in the afternoon and the sun shone warmly, albeit from behind my bivvy so I didn't feel the benefit. As the sun set the cloudless sky allowed the temperature to fall, so much so that by dawn the lake water felt much, much warmer than that in my particle bucket. Those hemp and groat seeds were decidedly cold as I baited up on Thursday morning.

Despite the lack of fish, seen or hooked, there was plenty of wildlife watching to be done. The highlights for me being masses of swifts hunting over the water, probably a couple of hundred all told, giving a supreme example of flying agility. The ease with which they cover distance with minimal effort made the sand and house martins look like novice fliers. The swifts were in evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday, arriving late morning on the Wednesday and departing well before dusk. I guess they timed their visit to coincide with the flying times of insects which are most active during the brighter part of the day.

The other highlight was another display of aerial insect catching. I'd seen a falcon whizz past my swim but been unable to get a definite ID on it. I thought it must have been a hobby as it was too big and dark to be a kestrel, but too small to be a peregrine. One bacon butty and a brew later I saw the bird again, on the other side of the lake, and managed to get the binoculars trained on it this time. Sure enough it was a hobby, flying high over the water and every so often flicking it's feet forward to pass an insect to its beak. Fantastic stuff to watch for ten minutes before it flew out of sight.

More amusing were The Three Stooges. These three mallard drakes took to occupying my peg and more or less begging me to feed them. Like a fool I did. This made one of them very bold and it took to invading my bivvy to look for seconds.

Not only did these ducks hang around to wait for food, they also took to using the peg as a toilet and a bedroom. However the incident that provided the most amusement was when they were joined by a fourth drake. This imposter prompted a fit of mass ducky hysteria. The quacking became so loud I could barely hear my radio. If that wasn't enough they then began to use my bivvy as a roundabout. I was treated to the sight of four insanely quacking ducks passing from left to right past the front of my bivvy, the additional sound of them blundering one after another round the right corner, which was pegged close to a hawthorn giving the birds little room to manoeuvre, the quacks then progressed round behind me before the first duck reappeared at the left of my bivvy with the other three in hot pursuit. This was repeated four times before they dizzily chased each other around the flat patch in front of me reaching a crescendo of quacking as the imposter made his getaway and the noise eventually subsided. Well the quacking died away, I was in fits of laughter by that stage!

Despite the lack of tench seen or caught, sightings on this pit usually mean feeding fish, it was good that the place didn't live up to its name. The only rodent I saw was a wood mouse cleaning up a few seeds just after dark of my second night. Most pleasant not having to sleep with one eye open.

After loading the car for my journey home I had a look in the car park bay. There were some damselflies paired up and laying eggs on the mats of floating weed in the margins. A close look revealed that they were large red-eyed damsels. I'd never seen this species until the other week, and now I've spotted them at a second site. I'd rather have seen some fish with red eyes in my landing net though.